Former North Phoenix track star Ernie Bullard dies at 77

Ernie Bullard, a key member of the legendary North Phoenix High School track program in the 1950s who went on to a successful track coaching career, died Thursday in Stockton, Calif., at age 77.

An Arizona native, Bullard was 1954 state high school pole vault champion and won the 1956 national junior college title at Phoenix College.

He was national junior college Coach of the Year in 1968 after directing Mesa Community College to a national championship.

Bullard was head track coach at San Jose State from 1971-84 and at USC from 1985-90, succeeding Vern Wolfe who coached Bullard at North Phoenix. He coached 1992 Olympic champion Quincy Watts and NCAA champion Robert Reading at USC.

Jim Brewer, Dallas Long and Karl Johnstone along with Bullard were among Wolfe’s national-level stars at North Phoenix, which won two state championships. Brewer and Bullard were next-door neighbors who pushed each other to unprecedented pole-vault heights. Brewer was the first high-schooler in the nation to clear 14 feet and 15 feet.

“I’m the second-best high-school pole vaulter in the world, and I’m not even my neighborhood champion,” Bullard said when he was a senior at North Phoenix.

Bullard graduated from USC in 1959 and earned a master’s degree at Arizona State in 1961. He is survived by his son Denton, daughter Kari and several grandchildren.



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